Thrifty camping pays off for Andringa brothers
January 20, 2018
For many athletes trying to make the U.S. Ski Team, money is tight. It was certainly an added pressure for Casey and Jesse Andringa and their parents. But the family came up with a thrifty and adventurous way to help the brothers meet their training needs without dropping all their money on a high-price apartment in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, where they train: camping.
After Casey, the older of the two brothers, 22, casually suggested buying a pop-up camper instead of renting a condo, the idea took off. What resulted was a 2017 summer of early nights, clean living and very successful training. Casey earned his highest finish of his life in Park City on Wednesday, when he broke into the super finals for the first time at Deer Valley Resort's FIS Visa Freestyle International Ski World Cup.
Casey was obviously thrilled. It was only his second World Cup event and his achievement was made all the sweeter by the dedication that he had invested to get to this level.
After falling just short of making the U.S. Ski team last season, they minimized their expenses and the scope of their lives to only the essentials by living in the woods.
"I was kind of joking," Casey said as he recalled the suggestion to get a pop-up camper. "Then, a month later (my dad) calls me up and says, 'Hey Casey, we have a pop-up for you guys to live in.'"
They kicked off the acquisition of their new crib with a three-week trip to a training camp in Oregon, then took it around the West, then back to Steamboat Springs, where they buckled down for the season.
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"It was honestly incredible," Jesse, said. "We've never trained that hard. We lived in the woods for two, three months straight. Every day we trained on the ramps, every day we went and worked out until we were exhausted. Borderline puking."
In fact, Jesse, age 20, said he did puke – but just once.
Training jumps off the water ramp served a dual purpose, taking the place of showers while they worked on their aerial tricks. Their meals were simple and healthy — "a lot of Kale and quinoa," Casey said – or at least, they did the best they could.
"We ate a lot of tuna, which I later learned has a bunch of mercury in it, so you shouldn't eat a ton of it, but we were having tuna like two times a day," he added.
With just the essentials – two beds and a propane grill – the two were able to fully focus on their goal. There was no internet to keep them up, so as soon as the sun went down, they hit the hay.
"You didn't have cell service, so you would get up there, have a little bonfire, and you were asleep by 7:30, 8 — whenever the sun went down," Casey said.
The days turned to weeks and months. Friends from training came up to visit and shared their campfires. But as summer turned to fall, they started to feel the downside of their living arrangement.
"We were up in Steamboat when it was 5 degrees, 10 degrees; snowing like six inches a night, up in there; in three sleeping bags," Jesse said.
Casey added that there were a few nights they slept in their jeans as an extra layer, since the camper had no heating.
"By the end of it, we were waking up with frost on our sleeping bags," Jesse said. "It was brutal but I wouldn't have traded it for the world."
When the moguls season started, Casey said he was under a lot of pressure to succeed, but at U.S. team selections in Winter Park, Colorado earlier this season, his hard work paid off.
"I had to win the event or that was probably it for me," he said. "Ended up winning both days and got to come here."
He said it was a stark contrast with last season, when he said he struggled under pressure.
Then, he made it to the super finals in Park City.
"Honestly, I cannot even explain it," he said. "I came out here just trying to put my runs down, and didn't know where it was going to lead me, because I'm pretty new out here. But being able to ski with those top six skiers in the world — I grew up loving these guys, and right now I'm right there with them and it feels fantastic."
Jesse, who followed his brother to Park City to see him compete, said the two were enjoying a moment of underdog success. Jesse admits when he first heard the plan to camp, he was skeptical, but that was in spring, before their successful summer and his brother's move into the World Cup circuit.
"Casey is full of crazy ideas, and I'm always there to go along with him and push him," he said. "And it worked out well. It was honestly the most fun couple months I've ever been a part of, for sure."